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Could wearing headphones for an hour worsen tinnitus? Are there any natural remedies for it?

Firstly I’d like to define “worsen” and “trigger”. Worsening would be changing the long term course of tinnitus - say from occasional to permanent - by damaging your hearing or a head injury. Triggering it is something you do that makes it more likely to pop up or - if it’s already there - become more prominent in the moment.

So wearing headphones at a safe volume level is not going to make tinnitus worse. Blasting it so loud that you can’t hear yourself talk is going to damage your hearing - both temporarily and long term - and make constant tinnitus more likely.

Wearing headphones can be a trigger for some people. If so I’d advise having it at a mellow volume level, as that is more likely to soothe. Mine is triggered by listening to music in the car louder than a background level. I still do it though, because I enjoy it and it’s not harmful.

The thing that is most important about tinnitus is this: if you let it become a phobia and therefore spend more time thinking about this and that thing that might make it louder, you must stop yourself. Thinking about tinnitus is the one thing that’s absolutely guaranteed to trigger it, and if it’s already there your attention can and will make it more prominent among other things in the soundscape. You can prove this to yourself by focusing in on it, listening and examining the type of sound it’s making and/or saying it’s name over and over again. Chances are high that this will make it get “bigger”.

Thankfully the reverse is also true. Now you’ve proved to yourself that thinking about it makes it more prominent, use that information to make it a rule to never feed it by giving it your attention. This is how it works, how many sensory experiences work. Taking your mind off sights, sounds and even pain will cause them to reduce in intensity/prominence among the other sensations you are experiencing. Unless writing or speaking professionally, I don’t even use the word tinnitus (just T if I absolutely have to) because I don’t want to listen to it.

This is the natural remedy you’re looking for, and it’s a mental remedy rather than a vitamin. There is no other remedy for tinnitus, there is only learning never to focus on it. If that sounds depressing to you, it really shouldn’t because it is a very powerful remedy; we call it habituation and it is the goal of tinnitus treatment. Accepting there is no cure, accepting that you are one of the millions of people who has it, and accepting that you are the only one who can change your outcome, this is what you need to become habituated and be someone who has tinnitus, not someone who suffers from tinnitus. You need to be “all in”, and make it a rule of life never to enhance it. When this is your permanent outlook, it will start to fade in importance and it will be noticed far less often.

That being said, if there are any concerns such as hearing ‘pulsing’ noises, having associated unchecked hearing loss or having tinnitus only on one side, you must get them checked out. Then go back to not giving it attention!

This answer goes way beyond what was asked, but I’m a big believer in spreading the word as soon as people start to worry about their tinnitus! The less you feed into it, the less you will hear it. So play the music and enjoy it. Don’t damage your hearing, of course, but enjoy it and don’t dwell on the T unless it is absolutely necessary.

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